Circle-Vision in 1996

When I returned to Disneyland in December 1995, there were some thing I had “just” missed (like the PeopleMover and Skyway, that had closed a few years earlier). But, some things were still there, though they would close soon after.

One such thing was the Circle-Vision theater, showing a special presentation of America the Beautiful, which was supervised by Walt Disney himself.

Disneyland’s Circle-Vision on August 12, 1996.

For the kids at home, this was where the Buzz Lightyear ride is today. You can learn more at Yesterland.com or read the writeup at the Wikipedia.

My ancient digital camera did not do well indoors without using a flash. But, since there aren’t that many photos of this online, I thought I’d share what I have.

Disneyland’s Circle-Vision on August 12, 1996.

Yep. Glorious low resolution, low quality digital photos from 1996! Above was the pre-show area, leading in to the main CircleVision theater. Below I will share the other photos I took that visit — all of equal quality.

After this theater closed, it eventually would re-open and be used as part of the queue for the Rocket Rods. They created a new Circle-Vision film for it, which features some clips from other CircleVision films (on all screens) as well as clips from Disney’s TV series segments on transportation (including clips of Walt Disney). It was nice to be in a Circle-Vision theater at Disneyland again, even if it was just something you passed through while waiting for a ride.

Walt Disney World had Circle-Vision theaters at Epcot‘s World Showcase (and still does) and Magic Kingdom‘s Tomorrowland (Timekeeper, gone and replaced by the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor).

Disneyland no long has any theater, as the building was redone to become Buzz Lightyear and the Circle-Vision screens were removed.

At least I got to see the “end” of Circle-Vision at Disneyland — the original theme park that pioneered this type of presentation. It’s one of the things I have never seen anywhere else (though surely someone else has made them).

Until next time…

Entering Disney in 1996.

Here is a real quick one… It recently dawned on me that someone could probably dedicate a whole series of articles to how admission to the Disney theme parks has changed over the years. Up until the 1990s, this would have only been a discussion about coupon books versus single and multi-day general admission tickets. Since then, however, there have been a number of changes to how admission is handled.

I will just contribute two photos taken in 1996 of how you used to get in to the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

First, notice the orange area in the following photo:

Magic Kingdom turnstile on August 26, 1996.

At that time, admission was a paper-plastic type ticket with a magnetic strip on it. At the turnstile you would insert that ticket into the orange slot and it would scan and allow (or deny) you access to the park.

Here is what my ticket, an annual pass, looked like in 1996:

1996 WDW Annual Pass (back).

And here is the front artwork:

1996 WDW Annual Pass (front).

Yes, my Walt Disney World annual pass was just a piece of plastic-paper with my name on it.

At the time, I thought this was quite cheesy compared to how Disneyland did theirs. They had an actual plastic ID card with a photo on it, and no magnetic strip that could become demagnetized. Here is the Disneyland pass from the same year:

1996 Disneyland AP (back).

And here is the back, promoting the recently opened Indiana Jones Adventure attraction:

1996 Disneyland AP (front).

Quite a difference in quality! In those years, it was said that Disneyland visitors were 70% locals from Southern California, while Walt Disney World was about 70% out-of-state tourists. I guess Disney just had more “regulars” to make feel special when they spent so much money on an annual pass. (After all, a one day pass to Disneyland in 1996 has just seen its price jacked up to $34!)

I never had a day pass to Disneyland, so I don’t know what they used for single day tickets at the time.

I recently found all of my Disneyland and Walt Disney World passes I’ve had since 1995. In a future post, I’ll do a photo essay showing the changes over the years.

One more thing before I go… The backside of the Magic Kingdom turnstile in 1996:

Magic Kingdom turnstile on August 26, 1996.

Ah, the things I took pictures of with my first digital camera.

Until next time…

My abandoned Disney theme park book project…

I recently stumbled across eight chapters of a Disneyland/Walt Disney World book I was working on a long, long time ago. Today, there are hundreds of such books, and many speciality book publishing companies (such as Theme Park Press) that publish niche books like these. But back then, well, we had some Disney history books, and official and unofficial guides, and that was about it.

I thought I’d share an excerpt from a draft of the opening to one of my chapters — Disneyland for Walt Disney World Fans — which, as I read through the whole thing, still seems as applicable today as it was back in the early 2000s. (This project was started in the late 90s as Disneyland was building Disney’s California Adventure and becoming a “resort”, and revisions where being made after that expansion.)

Let’s take a quick look… I’m commenting out some of the text due to it being laughably out-of-date (several places I mentioned back then don’t even exist today), but hopefully you’ll get the idea…


Chapter __ – Disneyland for Walt Disney World Fans

If you are a Walt Disney World fan, you should already have an idea of just what Disney World is, at least to you.

What the Disneyland Resort Isn’t

The Disneyland Resort is not a huge, sprawling entertainment complex sitting on 43 square miles or property with endless golf courses, outdoor activities, and resorts. It has no water parks, no nightclubs, and no campgrounds. Instead, it is two theme parks, three high end hotels, and a shopping district featuring touristy eateries.

If you could spend an entire week in Florida and happily never set foot on one of the four Disney theme parks there, a vacation to Disneyland may not be a fitting alternative.

But, if you cherish all things Disney, and enjoy rides and theming…

Augmentation

A Disneyland Resort vacation can be augmented with several non-Disney theme parks and experiences that are nearby.

  • Knott’s Berry Farm – Just fifteen minutes away is one of the original theme parks in America – Knott’s Berry Farm. (I’d visited Knott’s numerous times by then, and was considering devoting a small section to what it had to offer. Since then, Knott’s has been purchased by Cedar Fair and it has become much more of a coaster thrill park.)
  • Universal Studios Hollywood – Located within an hour away (depending on traffic) is the orignial famous Hollywood studio tour. (This was another area where I had a section dealing with the major “must see” offerings at Universal, as well as a comparison between the Hollywood and Orlando versions. With the addition of Islands of Adventure, I would have had to expand upon that quite a bit.)
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain…(Since I grew up in a state that had, at one point, THREE Six Flags parks, I probably wrote a bit too much about Magic Mountain. Ultimately, it would have been a parallel to going to Busch Gardens or similar in Orlando.)
  • SeaWorld – …(Another bi-coastal comparison. The idea was to pitch “Disneyland + SeaWorld” versus “Magic Kingdom + SeaWorld” but ultimately, I would have also included things like the San Diego Zoo and other unique California offerings.)…
  • Legoland – …(I had not yet even begun to write about Legoland.)…
  • …(I had planned to do some visits to the various parks so I could speak about them with more knowledge than what a brochure gave me)…

Water Parks

Although none of the local water park attractions can come close to the immersive attention to detail that Disney’s Florida water parks offer, for those who just want to get soaked, slide or swim, there are plenty of Southern California generic water park experiences to be had.

  • …(list and disucssion of various nearby waterparks; again, without first-hand experience with them, there would have been some research involved)…

Touristy Attractions

Just like the nearby International Drive near Disney World is full of more tourist attractions, shows and experiences than you could comfortably shake a stick at (let alone expect to see them all even after many visits), the Disneyland Resort area is also home to similar experiences.

  • Medieval Times – …
  • …(there are so many of these around here; I was going to base this on a similar project I was planning to do on Wisconsin Dells. Likewise, there was a similar section about the touristy things to do near Walt Disney World)…

And so on…

Since I still have a chance to resurrect this project through a new publisher (sadly, the original went out of business years ago), I won’t go into further details. But, I will say that it mostly covered common things found at both resorts (i.e., the apples to apples comparison) rather than trying to compare a golf course in Orlando to a swimming pool at the Disneyland Hotel.

I certainly enjoyed spending a few evenings reading through my early ramblings, and I hope you enjoyed this quick peek at what could have been (and maybe one day still will be).

Until next time…

Disney’s California Adventure characters in 2001

I visited Disney’s California Adventure about a week after it first opened. I intentionally planned my visit to avoid the “opening crowds.” Looking back, I wish I had been there for opening day. I was lucky enough to see a few things during my first visit that were gone a week later, and never returned, like the “bee bodies” at the Orange Stinger:

DCA bee bodies at the Orange Stinger on February 18, 2001.

But I digress.

One of the (unsubstantiated) rumors about DCA during its early planning was that it would not have Disney characters in it. Really? Disney already tried that with EPCOT Center, which opened without Mickey and gang, but added them soon after because, apparently, people expect to see Disney characters at a Disney park.

True or not, the park certainly opened with characters. Here’s a look of some of them I saw during my first visit to the brand new park.

Over in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, characters were on the street…

Kuzco (Emporer’s New Groove) and (maybe?) Cruela de Vil on February 18, 2018.
Mushu (Hercules) on February 21, 2001.
Esmerelda (Hunchback of Notre Dame) on February 21, 2001.

Inside the Animation Building, I was surprised when Mickey and Minnie came over to hang out with us. It was a great, air conditioned way to get some mouse time without a long line. (And notice their costumes… They are dressed as if they are on vacation. They live at Disneyland, but visit DCA.)

Mickey and Minnie hanging out in the Animation Building on February 18, 2018.

Over at Bountiful Valley Farm, Flik from Bug’s Life was making appearancs. This made sense since It’s Tough to be a Bug was located there, and featured him.

Flik in Bountiful Valley Farm on February 18, 2018.

Near the entrance of the park, at Sunshine Plaza, you could find some of the classic Disney characters — also dressed as if they were on vacation. Here’s Goofy.

Goofy on vacation at DCA on February 21, 2001.

And Max! (I will admit I’ve never seen anything featuring Max. I think I aged out of cartoons before The Goofy Movie and things like Disney Afternoon, so there is a large collection of Disney characters I just don’t recognize or connect with.)

Max on vacation at DCA on February 21, 2001.
Donald on vacation at DCA on February 21, 2001.
Mickey and Minnie on vacation at DCA on February 21, 2001.

Since there wasn’t any specific meet and greet area for characters, you could find them pretty much all over the park. Even in San Francisco. (I’m the goofy one on the left, with camera bags galore.)

Me meeting Pluto in the San Francisco area on February 21, 2001.

When I visited later that year, I ran into him over in the Paradise Pier area with some duck. It’s interesting seeing how outfits change the “look” of a character.

And there was even a street show featuring many of your favorite Disney characters…

Character show on February 14, 2001.

So IF the rumors of “DCA won’t have characters” were ever true, it’s clear that they went the opposite direction and made sure the park was packed with them, even on opening week.

Until next time…

Disneyland’s Christmas in August 1997.

If I told you a Disney park was starting to celebrate a holiday months in advance, today that might not phase you. (I’m lookin’ at you, Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party that starts in August this year!)

But do you remember that time in the 1990s when Disneyland started celebrating Christmas in August?

No?

Let’s park hop back to twenty-two years ago today…

Here’s a photo from August 20, 1997. Notice the Christmas garland around Coca-Cola Corner…

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

I’d have gotten closer photos if I could have, but that area was off limits. Look again. Did you notice the ladder in the street, tripod stand in the left, or the large clump of electrical cable near the lamp post?

Disneyland was being used as a filming location for a Christmas commercial for the now-defunct Mervyn’s department store.

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

They had most of Main Street blocked off during filming.

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.
Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

Guests were being routed down the left sidewalk towards Adventureland and Frontierland.

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

For Southern California folks, seeing movie crews filming is a rather ordinary experience. But, I suspect, seeing Disneyland decorated for Christmas in August was not. I was excited to see both.

Merry Christmas in August!

Some day you’ll have to me to tell you about the time I saw Shirley Jones (Partridge Family) filming in Toon Town for a Disney special…

Until next time…

Happy Birthday on the Jungle Cruise

In honor of my fake birthday today, I thought I’d share a Disney story about something that happened on my real birthday long ago…

I believe there has only been one time when I made a Disney trip on my birthday, and that was to Disneyland in 1997.

Some say getting to go to Disneyland is more like Christmas that a birthday, but this year, I guess both were true. The end of Main Street was decorated for the holidays! They were filming a television commercial for Mervyn’s California (a store that no longer exists).

Christmas in August on August 20, 1997.

So, in a way, I guess I celebrated both my summer birthday and Christmas that trip. You can this article for more on this Christmas in August commercial.

But I digress.

While I have no memory of going into City Hall to get a free birthday button to wear (the only place you could get them back then), but I must have, because it seems there are photos of me wearing one that day. Looking at the photos today, though, I guess it may have just been a sticker back then.

I looked so happy! Birthdays must make me happy. (Not so much, these days! #OldFart) Also note my trendy “Al’s Place” website T-Shirt I often wore during park visits back then, and my special Disney name badge. Classy.

Most likely because of the button/sticker, something kinda special happened that day — a Jungle Cruise skipper and his crew sing Happy Birthday to me on the boat.

It was very surreal, so say the least.

I don’t have a picture of it from that day, but it probably looked something like this…

Not an actual picture of me getting Happy Birthday sang to me on a Jungle Cruise boat.

So thank you, 1997 Disneyland Jungle Cruise skipper, for giving me a very special birthday at The Happiest Place on Earth. I think about this moment every year on my fake birthday.

Until next time…

Toontown Jolley Trolley in 1996

When I “returned” to Disneyland in December of 1995, there were many, many things that had changed since my childhood visits in the 1970s. I wasn’t aware of most of them, but I was aware that Bear Country had been replaced by Critter Country. I had been also reading a ton about the construction of the brand-new Indiana Jones Adventure attraction. What I don’t think I really knew much about was Mickey’s Toontown, built beyond the railroad tracks past it’s a small world.

According to the wikipedia, Disneyland has just added this all-new land in 1993. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin did not open until 1994. I now realize I got to visit it within the very first few years of existence.

My digital photos of Toontown in 1996 look very similar to digital photos taken today (image quality not withstanding), though there are some changes.

Jolly Trolly on May 20, 1996.

First, the Jolly Trolly is long gone. It was in operation from 1993 to 2003. This thing would slowly drive through the land (on a track) with a weird wobbling motion. It added a bit of cartoonish kinetic energy to the area, much like the Main Street vehicles do there. Here is a tiny 320×240 photo of it from my first visit with a digital camera.

And here is a larger 640×480 version, a few months later.

And although it’s a bit hard to make out, here’s another photo of the trolly driving around the land:

Jolly Trolley (in background) on August 18, 1996.

If I recall correctly, the Jolly Trolley had one load and unload area. It would make the loop, then let guests off back where they started. Here’s a look at the station in 2004, sign still in intact, but trolley nowhere to be seen:

Jolly Trolly station on August 27, 2004.

And here is a better look from 2005, during the 50th anniversary. Even though the attraction was no more, Disneyland still kept the sign and even adorned it with a special golden icon for the 50th.

Jolly Trolley station on July 15, 2005.

By 2007, the Jolly Trolly had returned — but only as a sitting area and photo opportunity.

Jolly Trolley returns! December 10, 2007.

Here are some better pictures of the less-Jolly Trolly from 2008:

Less-Jolly Trolly on December 3, 2008.
Less-Jolly Trolly on December 3, 2008.

At some point during the years I didn’t get to visit the park, the Trolley was moved a bit, and the former station was turned into a Disney Vacation Club kiosk:

Jolly Trolley DVC stand on May 9, 2017.

I guess we should be happy they at least kept the Jolly Trolley and sign around. I’m not sure there are many (or any?) extinct attractions at Yesterland that still have their signs on display inside the park…

At least the Trolley wasn’t alone. Chip and Dale’s Acorn Pit was shiny and new in 1996, but closed in 1998. Goofy’s Bounce House also is no more, closing in 2008. Since I don’t have photos of them in 1996, I’ll do those photo essays later..

Until next time…

Disney/MGM Studios Backlot Tour in 1996

When Disney/MGM Studios opened in 1989 (I wouldn’t get to see it until 1994), it was a pre-emptive strike against Universal Studios’ plans to open their own theme park just down the road. The park was quickly constructed and opened in order to beat Universal’s 1990 opening date.

One of the main features of the park were tours where you could see Disney Animators working on upcoming features, and a behind-the-scenes tram tour through actual movie and TV locations. Since Orlando was far, far from Hollywood, neither Disney’s or Universal’s studio parks were going to come close to the “real” studio tour that Universal Studios had in California, but hey, it was at least a different concept for a theme park out East.

The Backlot Tour was part walking tour, through exhibits and presentations, then tram tour. For some reason, I have no photos from the tram tour portion, but I did take some during the walking part.

There were actual movie props on display. I forget what movie this Trojan Horse was from, but it was on display next to vehicles that were, I think, from the movie The Rock.

D/MGM Studios Backlot Tour Trojan Horse on August 26, 1996.

For the opening of D/MGM, a short film was produced starring Bette Midler called “The Lottery“. It was filmed in sound stages and on the streets at the theme park. Here are some of the props and set pieces used in the film:

D/MGM Backlot Tour props and set pieces from The Lottery on August 26, 1996.

And, hey! Here’s a recording of the movie on YouTube! Look at “original” Disney/MGM Studios!

But I digress.

There were lots of other props to see along the way, and eventually you got to look at the water tank. It wasn’t a real filming location — it was just a tourist thing and part of the show. But, it had what looked like one of the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea subs in it!

D/MGM Backlot Tour water tank on August 26, 1996.

Two guests were selected before the show to act out a nautical battle scene. One was in a ship wheelhouse set, and the other was at the battle station where they would “fire” on the ship.

D/MGM Backlot Tour water tank on August 26, 1996.

I even got to do this twice. Here’s me in 1998:

Me on the D/MGM Backlot Tour on January 24, 1998.

There were many other interesting things to see along the tour. Of course, I was focused on theme park stuff, and excited to see a Jungle Cruise (assumption) elephant:

D/MGM Backlot Tour Jungle Cruise (?) elephant on August 26, 1996.

You’d pass through a “prop warehouse” and see things from TV shows as well as defunct Disney theme park attractions.

D/MGM Backlot Tour prop warehouse on August 26, 1996.

This Mickey refrigerator prop caught my attention, though I don’t know what it was from.

D/MGM Studios Backlot Tour Mickey refrigerator on August 26, 1996.

But this prehistoric TV I did recognize! It was from the ABC series Dinosaurs. See the in-universe corporation logo on the front? “WeSaySo”.

D/MGM Studios Backlot Tour TV set from ABC’s Dinosaurs on August 26, 1996.

And this “famous” prop… A Binford Tools lawn mower from the ABC TV series Home Improvement:

D/MGM Backlot Tour Binford Tools lawnmower on August 26, 1996.

Some items were clearly marked as originating from the other Disney parks. Look at the logo here – EPCOT Center, before “Epcot ’94″…

D/MGM Backlot Tour Epcot assets tag on August 26, 1996.

And look at all the decommissioned animatronics from World of Motion (I think)! I’ll just stick them into a small gallery here, since this article is already getting way too long. Click them to see full-size versions.

It was such a neat experience, and this is only a fraction of what it was. There were plenty of other exhibits and “show” elements before getting to the tram tour.

I’ll have much more of this tour to show in future installments as the years progress and I started taking more and more photos in the parks.

Until next them…

The Lawnmower Tree in 1996

Did I ever tell you about that time on August 28, 1996, when I was leaving Magic Kingdom at closing and there were huge lines for both the monorail and ferryboat, so I decided to hop aboard a resort watercraft and ride it over to Fort Wilderness to explore and see if I could find another route to the parking lot?

I didn’t?

Oh, cool. Well, this one time, on August 28, 1996…

Today, the Lawnmower Tree seems well known, but I am not sure if I’d ever even heard about it in 1996. I just did a search through the archives of the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup and I found the earliest post mentioning it was from August 26, 1997. The post was short, so I’ll include it, and the response, here:

Subject: Lawn Mower Tree, any

Date: 8/26/1997

From: na…@aol.com (NAES7)

Hi everyone, I’m headed to WDW in December and in doing some research on some of the points of interest I noticed that is a “tree that has grown around a lawn mower” has anyone seen this? Is it a Disney prop or legitimate?  
 
Sean

Response from Mike Tuchman:

 I have seen it a few years ago.  It is not a prop.  It was apparently
 leaned against a tree (at what is now Fort Wilderness) before Disney
 and forgotten.  The tree grew and started enveloping it.  There is 
 not much of the lawnmower visible anymore.

8/26/1997 posting to rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup

It is possible that I learned about the Lawnmower Tree over not he General Electric GEnie online service, since I was active there years before I had Internet newsgroup access (and, indeed, before the World Wide Web even existed).

So either I learned about it on GEnie, or I stumbled on to it by accident. In either case, I still had room for at least two images in my digital camera, and I took these photos.

Here’s the sign:

Lawnmower Tree sign on Fort Wilderness on August 28, 1996.

And here is what the lawnmower looked like in 1996:

Lawnmower Tree on Fort Wilderness on August 28, 1996.

I suppose a quick web search today could reveal more details about the story, but back in 1996-1997, not much was really known. I was only reminded of the existence of this tree when I was going through my old photos for articles here on this site. I did a quick search and found that the tree remained, but it was now fenced off and marked much more obviously as a “thing to look at.” I guess anything can become famous on the Internet these days! Even a tree with a lawnmower stuck in it.

Of course, finding this tree was not the reason I boarded that resort boat. I was looking for alternate routes to the parking lot. If I recall, the boat took me to Fort Wilderness (which I’d never been to before, and haven’t gotten back to since). I recall walking around a bit (and finding that tree) before I hopped on a bus. The bus was heading deeper into the campgrounds, so I remember getting off of it and either hopping a return bus, or walking back to the front. Eventually, I made it to the Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot, though I don’t remember how many hops I took to get there.

It was a fun night of exploring and discovery, and something I would continue to do in subsequent trips, hoping to find something else interesting stuck in a tree.

I never did, but at least I found the Lawnmower Tree before it was Internet famous 🙂

Until next time…